Sunday, December 30, 2012

Solstice/New Years Ritual: Recapitulation

While traveling over the holidays with my husband, I read this wonderful article by Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal magazine, and I was inspired.  With the aid of a roaring fire, I convinced my husband to help me modify this ritual to celebrate the old, the new, and the unknown.

1. To start, build a fire with your partner.  Include the rest of the family if you wish, but make sure you share this ritual with someone you love deeply.  Let the fire burn for a bit, adding fuel and just enjoying the warmth of the blaze.

2. Take a sheet of paper and something to write with, and make sure everyone who is with you is similarly equipped. 

3. Write a list of all the moments in the past year that brought you joy.  You can be as vague or specific as you want.

4. Share the list with your partner: read your own entries out loud and listen as he reads his.  Don't discuss or judge, simply be a listening ear.

5. Offer this list to the fire.  You might say something as you burn it, like, "Thank you for the joys of this year."

6. Grab another sheet of paper.  This time, write down all the moments you regret or that caused you discomfort  in the past year.

7. Share the list, and remember not to pass judgement on yourself or your partner.

8. Offer this list to the fire.  You might say, "I accept the negative pieces of this year, and I let them go."

9. Now it's time for a third list (and this is my favorite part of this ritual): write down all the things you wish for in the coming year.  Be wild, creative, and ambitious; there's no limit on wishing.

10. Share this list, and offer it to the fire.  You might say, "I can't wait to see what the coming year holds."

Now, linger in front of the fire.  Share some wine or a sweet treat, or simply watch the flames in silence.


A new year is coming, and we all have the chance for new, amazing things.  Let go of the past, and step forward with an open heart and a sense of hope.  There's nothing that's truly impossible!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Solstice

'Twas the night before Solstice
and all through the town
the people were smiling,
there wasn't a frown.

The branches were laid
'cross the mantle with care
to honor the revels which
would soon occur there.

The children were shrieking
with fiendish deligh
buzzing with sugar
to stay up all night.

One cat at her food dish
and one on my lap,
all cozy and snug
for a long winter's nap.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
but the twinkle of stars--
the night was so clear!

And the stars filled my vision
with so much good cheer
that I flung open my arms
to bring in the New Year.

The darkness is fading
and daylight grows near
and the world has a message
we all need to hear--

Oh, children, and teachers, and mothers, and lovers,
oh, fathers, and daughters, and sisters, and brothers
with love in your hearts and light in your eyes
you can transform all the tears and the sighs!

Go into this year
with a spring in your step
and remember, each of you,
this dream we have kept--

For peace to reach over
the whole lovely earth
and for all souls to know
the feeling of mirth.

This is my wish on this magical night--
may your Solstice be merry
and your Christmas quite bright!

~Jen McConnel, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Signing the contract!
I've been waiting and waiting to share some really good news with you, and I've finally received the okay:

I am now a Red Wheel/Weiser author!

*Wow.  I got tingles just typing that!*

To make a long story short, fortuosity has linked me up with an amazing editor at an amazing house, and The Busy Girl’s Book of Simple Spells: Goddess Magic for Wealth, Health, Happiness, and Love will be out sometime late in 2013/early 2014!

I am completely over the moon, and I can't wait to share this book with y'all!  I'll keep you posted as the release draws near, but for now, I just wanted to shout to the universe a big, fuzzy thank you.

What an amazing Solstice gift.  

What are you thankful for today? 


Monday, December 17, 2012

Love, Light, and Responsibility

When I was eighteen, and very new to the Pagan path, I had fantasies of living in a temple and serving as a priestess of old.  I had my first chat with Goddess, and begged her to open my eyes to all things.  I thought I'd be getting esoteric knowledge.

She sighed, and smiled sadly.  "Once seen, things cannot be unseen." 

I didn't listen, just assured her that I could handle it.

She's been gentle with me, but in the intervening decade, I've started to see more and more, and now I know what she was talking about.

It wasn't esoteric, magical wisdom that she granted me (although there's been a share of that, too).  My eyes slowly began to see the hurt, the madness, and the fear in the world.

Sometimes, it feels like my heart is breaking.  Sometimes, it feels hopeless.

This is why, after my first youthful daydreams, I've shied away from the title of Priestess.  I have not been ready to take responsibility for the people of the world, and I have not wanted to bear the burden of suffering that comes with service to the divine.

But the suffering is here, and the only way to combat it is to fill the world with love and light.

I try to do that, but sometimes, the darkness feels too strong.  After global and local tragedies especially, I feel almost hopeless.


But I refuse to let darkness win.  I will spread love and light one small piece at a time.  Even if it just means smiling at the man on the corner and meeting his gaze.

I'm not quite ready for the responsibility of Priestess, but I might be getting closer.

Do one beautiful thing today.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER by Julie Hearn

The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nell is a Merrybegot: a child conceived on May Day. Children like her are sacred to nature, and it's true that Nell leads a charmed life for a time. But then a new Puritan minister comes to town, bringing fire, brimstone, and two sneaky daughters. When Nell refuses to help the oldest daughter, Grace, rid herself of an unwanted child, Grace decides to get even. She and her sister stage demonstrations of possession, whipping the town and their father into a righteous frenzy. A Witch Hunter is called in, and Nell is sentences to hang. But nature takes care of its own, and the Piskies and the Fairies band together in an unusual act of good will to see Nell safe. Her fate is magical, like the world she inhabits, and it is impossible not to love this spunky witch.

I didn't expect this story to be peppered with actual magic: I thought I was getting into another historical novel. The history is there, don't get me wrong, but there's enough magic to please anyone with an addiction to fairy stories and folk lore. Plus, I always like witch trial stories that aren't set in Salem: the UK had a gory history of murdering women long before those girls on the continent got the fits. All in all, this is one of my new favorites.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 10, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

I'm really thankful that I've started doing the card a week on this blog: each week has been uncannily accurate so far, and this card is no exception. Balance is something I struggle with continuously: I'm a writer, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a crazy cat lady.  Bringing my many selves into balance is a challenge, and I've come to accept that there is no such thing as perfect balance in my life.  Balance indicates stillness to me, and while I may get all my balls up in the air with precision every now and then, I'm rarely still.

But maybe the cards are telling me I should be, at least, just for this week.

What does balance (the card or the word) mean to you?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reviews: DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Diana is the last of the Bishop witches, and she's spent her entire life avoiding magic. When she inadvertently unlocks the spell that binds an ancient manuscript, she can't ignore her power any longer. Diana must learn how to manage her magic, and fast, or she'll be an easy target for jealous witches and xenophobic vampires. Breaking the rules that govern magical creatures, Diana marries Matthew, a tall, dark, and broodingly stereotypical vampire. He pulls her into a world of blood feuds and danger, but overlaying it all is his quest to understand the four races: witches, vampires, daemons, and humans. Diana is the key to unlocking the genetic mysteries of the relationship between the creatures, but time is running out. Luckily, a powerful witch and an ancient vampire know how to stretch time to their purposes.

This novel has romance, magic, danger, and betrayal at every turn. Despite the fantastic creatures, the characters are all resonant and real, and it was wonderful to re-read this book. Hurry up, July, so I can see what happens next!

 Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel continues Diana and Matthew's twisted tale, sending them to Elizabeth's England in an effort to escape the Congregation that hunts them, both for their forbidden love and for Diana's as yet untapped power. But England in the sixteenth century poses a whole new host of problems, and Diana struggles to maintain her focus as she becomes swept into intrigue and daily life in old Europe. With a host of wonderful characters, Harkness explores magic in a fun way as she started to do in Discovery of Witches. While at times I felt like I was reading a witchier version of the Diana Gabaldon series, I enjoyed this sequel and can't wait for the final book in the All Souls trilogy.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: WITCHES OF EAST END by Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Freya (yes, she is exactly who she sounds like) has been bored ever since Salem. When The Council stripped her family of their powers and consigned them to the mortal world, she and her sister and her mother had to learn to blend in. But Freya doesn't blend, and after a few hundred years, she decides to make a love potion. Because, really, what harm could it do? Her sister, Ingrid, and their mother, Joanna, soon fall off the magical wagon as well, but possible repercussions from the council pale in comparison to the nasty grey sludge that is infecting their town. Is it possible that after all this time, Loki has escaped and is pulling the threads that will bring about the end of the world? And if he has, will Freya recognize him in time, or will the trickster jeopardize everything in his gamble for power?

Witches of East End is a great mix of passion, mistakes, and mythology. The setting is fresh and the twisted myths are delightful. Pick this one up if you like stories with a lot of power boiling just beneath the surface.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 3, 2012

Goddess Tarot: Card of the Week

My tarot deck of choice is still the first deck I ever bought: Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.  I love these familiar cards, but there's always more to learn, even after over a decade spent working with this beautiful deck.

I've decided to post a card of the week, drawing randomly from my deck each Monday and letting the message of the card marinate as I move about my busy life.

Today's card is:

Card:Queen of Cups
Deck: The Goddess Tarot
Artist: Kris Waldherr

This is a card of nurturing and emotion, which I could really use right now (I'm a college teacher, and it's exam week).  The Queen of Cups also symbolizes the culmination of romance and love, not to mention representing enhanced aspects of all things water; creativity, emotion, poetry, and personal contemplation.  I'm feeling a little ragged today, despite the beautiful weather, so this was a welcome card to start the week.

What does the Queen of Cups mean to you?